The Best VR Headsets of 2017

Searching for the hottest VR headsets for the holidays? After conducting extensive research, we bought the 12 best headsets currently available and put them through a rigorous set of side-by-side tests to find the best. We evaluated and scored the performance of each product in both the real and virtual world, judging the level of visual immersiveness and level of interactivity, as well as how difficult they were to set up and use. We tested all types of VR products for this review, ranging from high-end tethered products to simple headsets designed for a mobile device. Take a look at the complete review below to see which products came out on top and which ones fell a little flat.

Read the full review below ≫

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 12 ≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫
Rank #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product
HTC Vive
Oculus Rift
PlayStation VR
Samsung Gear VR
Acer AH101-D8EY
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award    Editors' Choice Award   
Price $599 List$499 List
$399.00 at Amazon
$500 List
$449.00 at Amazon
$130 List
$99.99 at Amazon
$399 List
$337.89 at Amazon
Overall Score 
100
0
80
100
0
75
100
0
74
100
0
67
100
0
63
Star Rating
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  • 5
  • 1
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Pros Highly interactive, incredibly immersive, comfortableVery immersive, interactive, easy to useExceptionally visually immersive, very user friendly, highly interactiveComfortable, Immersive, very easy to set upEasy to set up, very user-friendly
Cons Expensive, difficult setup processHarder to setup, not the most comfortableNot super comfortable, only works with PlayStationNot as interactive, limited compatibilityNot as interactive, some functionality is not available yet
Ratings by Category Vive Rift PlayStation VR Gear VR AH101-D8EY
Interactiveness - 35%
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
4
10
0
5
Visual Immersiveness - 20%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
6
Comfort - 20%
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
6
User Friendliness - 15%
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
9
Ease Of Setup - 10%
10
0
4
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
Specs Vive Rift PlayStation VR Gear VR AH101-D8EY
Phones that fit N/A N/A N/A Samsung Only N/A
Adjustable Lenses Only side to side Only side to side No, need to move the headset around Only front to back, but the dial is pretty rigid making it easier to get the best focus No
Sound Headphone Jack or PC Integrated or PC Headphone Jack or TV Phone Headphone Jack or PC

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
David Wise and Austin Palmer

Last Updated:
Tuesday
December 19, 2017

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Updated December 2017
For this update, we have added two new products to the mix. The Acer AH101-D8EY is one of the first headsets for the Windows Mixed Reality ecosystem. While it does show some promise, we found its overall performance to be a lackluster and this headset failed to merit an award. The Star Wars: Jedi Challenges headset by Lenovo is a mobile headset that is tons of fun and allows Star Wars fans to enter a galaxy that they love. It's not one of the top headsets, but it is a great option if you feel in tune with the Force and want to try your hand at lightsaber duels. Check out the individual product reviews or the side-by-side comparison below for more information on these new products and how they stacked up against the rest of the pack.

Best Overall VR Headset


HTC Vive


Editors' Choice Award

$599
List Price
See It

Tethered or Mobile: Tethered | Field of View: 110°
Highly interactive
Great visual immersiveness
Comfortable
Pricey
Hard to set up

The HTC Vive distinguished itself as the hottest VR headset that you can get today, delivering an overall unmatched performance. This premium tethered headset provides an incredibly immersive and interactive experience, with accurate motion tracking of your movement and your gaze in all six degrees of freedom. There are no noticeable latency issues and the pair of specially designed VR hand controllers greatly improve the overall experience. However, this product is definitely a little on the pricey side and the initial installation can be a bit daunting, especially for users that aren't particularly tech-savvy.

Read review: HTC Vive

Best Mobile VR Headset


Samsung Gear VR


Editors' Choice Award

$99.99
at Amazon
See It

Tethered or Mobile: Mobile | Field of View: 101°
Exceptionally comfortable
Extremely easy to setup
Visually immersive
Not terribly interactive
Not as user-friendly as other models

Earning the top score out of the mobile VR headsets, the Samsung Gear VR is the best you can get when it comes to this style of VR headsets. Rather than attaching to a PC or gaming console with external sensors, like the HTC Vive, you simply insert your smartphone into the Gear VR. It provides a highly immersive experience, though you do make some concessions in terms of interactivity. The Gear VR is much easier to setup and delivers a solid VR experience at a fraction of the price of the top model. However, it isn't compatible with a huge variety of phones, restricted to a limited number of Samsung smartphones.

Read review: Samsung Gear VR

Best Bang for the Buck


Oculus Rift


Best Buy Award

$399.00
at Amazon
See It

Tethered or Mobile: Tethered | Field of View: 110°
Highly immersive
Very user-friendly
Exceptionally interactive
Not super comfortable
Harder to set up

Searching for all the benefits of a tethered headset, but trying to save some cash? The Oculus Rift is a close second to our top recommendation, just being a little less comfortable and interactive, but retails at significantly less. On top of that, it is even more user-friendly and easier to set up than the Vive, making it an excellent choice if you are looking to save some cash and aren't the most technical person. All of this combines to earn the Oculus a Best Buy award for being a fantastic value option.

Read review: Oculus Rift

Best on a Tight Budget


Google Cardboard


The Google Cardboard. Best Buy Award

$15.00
at Amazon
See It

Tethered or Mobile: Mobile | Field of View: 90°
Inexpensive
Very easy setup
Uncomfortable
Lacks adjustability

Distinguishing itself as the least expensive option by a huge margin, the Google Cardboard is about as simple as you can get for these products. Its cardboard construction isn't terribly comfortable, but this bare-bones headset does a surprisingly good job at providing an immersive VR experience and even has a button on the headset to provide some level of interaction between you and your virtual world. It is very easy to set up and incredibly user-friendly, making it the best bargain you can get when shopping on a tight budget, made even better by the relatively wide spectrum of compatible smartphones.

Read review: Google Cardboard


Best for Star Wars fans


Lenovo Star Wars: Jedi Challenges



$199.99
at Amazon
See It

Tethered or Mobile: Mobile | Field of View: 60°
Easy to set up
Lightsaber battles
Less comfortable than other products
Limited experiences

Have you always wanted to see how you would do at fighting off the dark forces of the Empire or the First Order? The Lenovo Star Wars: Jedi Challenges finally gives you that opportunity, allowing you to take up the mantle of a Jedi Knight. This augmented reality headset is tons of fun and highly interactive with its lightsaber controller. This allows you to take part in lightsaber duels against various opponents, practice your command skills and control forces in battle, or perfect your holochess game. While this headset has a relatively limited library of VR experiences and is a little pricey, it is a ton of fun and definitely worth considering for the Star Wars fans out there.

Read review: Lenovo Star Wars: Jedi Challenges

Already Own a PlayStation?


PlayStation VR



$449.00
at Amazon
See It

Tethered or Mobile: Tethered | Field of View: 100°
Fantastic visual immersiveness
Extremely interactive
Very user-friendly
Not the most comfortable headset we tested
Only works with PlayStation

The final tethered headset we tested, the PlayStation VR finished behind the other two tethered headsets in our review. However, don't mistake this as confirmation that the PlayStation VR isn't worth considering. This is an all-around excellent VR headset that is exceptionally easy to set up and delivers a particularly immersive experience. However, this headset is only compatible with the PS4 line of gaming consoles, making it an excellent choice if you already have one. It is a little pricey to invest in both the gaming console and the headset and might be worth considering one of our top recommendations for that level of investment, but the PSVR is an excellent choice if you already have the requisite console.

Read review: PlayStation VR

Great for Certain Phones


Google Daydream View



$71.00
at Amazon
See It

Tethered or Mobile: Mobile | Field of View: 90°
Great immersiveness
Very easy to set up
Limited compatibility
Could be more comfortable

Updated to V2
Google recently released a new version of the Google Daydream View. This new model is essentially identical to its predecessor, with the exception of slightly better lenses and a wider field of view. The available colors are also different, with the headset coming in charcoal, fog, and coral compared to slate, snow, and crimson. The new version is a little heavier and a bit more expensive. All in all, we wouldn't necessarily ditching the old one if you already have it, but it's worth considering the newer version if you are buying one now.

Searching for an exceptional mobile VR experience, but don't have a Samsung smartphone? Building on the prior success of the Google Cardboard, the Google Daydream is the best option out there if your phone isn't compatible with the Gear VR. The Daydream is equally interactive and highly immersive, but is substantially less comfortable than the Gear VR. The group of Daydream-compatible phones is substantially larger than the set of phones that work with the Gear VR, but it still isn't terribly large. It is limited to Android phones, focusing on the flagship phones from most manufacturers. However, there are more and more phones being released all the time, so it's worth looking into if the Gear VR isn't an option for you.

Read review: Google Daydream View

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
80
$599
Editors' Choice Award
Earning the top score of the bunch, the HTC Vive is the best you can get when it comes to VR
75
$499
Best Buy Award
Retailing for significantly less than our top recommendation, the Rift is a solid choice for the budget conscious shopper that wants a premium VR experience
74
$500
Offering an exceptional gaming and VR media experience, the PlayStation VR is a fantastic choice, as long as you already own a PS4
67
$130
Editors' Choice Award
This fantastic headset is the best you can get when it comes to mobile VR, but doesn't have a huge range of compatible phones
63
$399
While the Acer and Windows Mixed Reality show plenty of promise, it still can't quite match the top headsets
61
$80
Compatible with most flagship smartphones from major manufacturers, the Daydream is the best bet for most people that don't already have a Samsung smartphone.
53
$200
While this might be a great gift for the Star Wars enthusiast, its novelty may wear off over time
49
$60
The Merge VR was relatively unremarkable in our test, but it is quite durable
47
$15
Best Buy Award
If you want to give VR a try and are on a tight budget, then Google Cardboard is your best bet
44
$45
This inexpensive headset failed to impress us in our tests
36
$50
Unless the Bnext is severely discounted, it is hard to recommend this product.
31
$50
There are definitely better option available, in terms of value and performance

VR headsets ready for testing.
VR headsets ready for testing.

Analysis and Test Results


To find out which VR headset is truly the best, we picked through all of the hottest headsets available on the market today, ultimately picking the top models to buy and test head-to-head. In total, we conducted close to 20 different assessments, ranging from how easy to set up the VR system is to how sweaty it made your face. We grouped these tests into five weighted metrics: Interactiveness, Visual Immersiveness, Comfort, User Friendliness, and Ease of Setup — each metric weighted proportionally to its significance. The sections below give more information on what each metric consisted of and how each headset stacked up.

In the zone.
In the zone.

Interactiveness


Earning the most weight out of all the metrics in our test, Interactiveness accounts for 35% of the total score for each headset. To evaluate the performance of each headset in this test, we conducted three different tests. The first test was how easy it is to interact with each device, whether there were buttons or a touchpad on the device itself or if there is a handheld controller that is used. The second test was comparing the motion tracking capabilities of the headset, whether it was 3-DOF or 6-DOF sensing and how well the position of the hand controller was monitored. 3-DOF refers to a headset that only monitors where you are looking from a fixed point, while 6-DOF refers to a headset that tracks where you are looking, as well as where you move — in the space covered by the sensors. This brings us to the third test we conducted, which was the area of coverage by the sensors. The chart below shows how each headset stacked up against the rest of the pack in these tests.


Earning the highest score of the group, the HTC Vive earned a phenomenal 9 out of 10 for its unmatched performance when it came to our Interactiveness tests. This headset includes two handheld controllers specifically made for VR or can be used with a standard Xbox or PlayStation controller that is hooked up to the computer. These were very comfortable to hold — one of our favorite designs of the group.

One of testers enjoying virtual bow hunting.
One of testers enjoying virtual bow hunting.

The HTC is a 6-DOF of freedom headset, with the largest sensor coverage of any of the headsets we tested. The sensors adequately covered the entirety of our testing room, with our only real limitation being the tether when walking around.

Don't look down! Walking the plank 20 stories up.
Don't look down! Walking the plank 20 stories up.

We found the Vive to be highly accurate at tracking motion in our tests — by far the best of the entire group by a wide margin. The margin shrank when we added a third sensor to the Oculus Rift, but that increases the cost and space required significantly. The Vive relies on a pair of sensors, either mounted on the wall or on a tripod. We had almost no issues with the HTC losing track of our position, even when we turned completely around. This amazing accuracy also carried over to tracking the position of the controller, with it being the most accurate of the bunch in our tests.

Right behind the HTC, the Oculus Rift earned an 8 out of 10 for its performance when it came to interactiveness. The Rift has no button on the headset itself, but allows the use of either a pair of the Oculus Touch controllers or a standard Xbox controller. The interface is essentially equivalent to that of the HTC Vive, but we found it was in the coverage of the sensors that dropped the Oculus down a point.

The area that is covered by the sensors of the Oculus is extremely dependent on the number and placement of sensors. It's not great with two sensors, especially if they are both placed in the front of the room. We had a few issues with motion tracking when facing away from the sensors, putting it on par with the PlayStation VR. However, if an additional third sensor is added and placed correctly, the Oculus can approach the coverage area of the HTC Vive. You also could add a fourth sensor, if you have an open USB port on the computer.

The rift controllers do their best to mimic natural hand motions.
The rift controllers do their best to mimic natural hand motions.

We found the accuracy of the motion tracking of the controllers to be slightly less accurate than the HTC, but significantly better than the PlayStation VR.

Next, the PlayStation VR earned the next highest score in this metric, meriting a 7 out of 10 for its performance. It was exceptionally easy to interact with this VR headset using the PlayStation Move controller system, even though there are no buttons or touchpads on the headset itself.

The PlayStation camera uses the lights on the visor and controllers to track you in VR.
The PlayStation camera uses the lights on the visor and controllers to track you in VR.

We did find that this model has some limitations when it came to sensor coverage, only adequately covering a space about 7' in front of the camera. Stepping any further back would cause the screen to black out — something a few of our testers encountered when backing up rapidly from a shark in one of the underwater VR experiences. This model also had the most limited motion tracking of all of the tethered headsets, struggling to track you if you turned around while using the Move controllers.

The underwater experience felt very life like; Watch out for sharks!
The underwater experience felt very life like; Watch out for sharks!

We also found it to be a little finicky when tracking the position of the Move controllers, with the controllers slightly shifting position throughout the game. There were also a non-trivial amount of instances where the controllers were unresponsive in our testing process.

The Acer AH101 came next, earning a 5 out of 10 for its average level of interactivity. The motion tracking controllers are decent, but they weren't our favorite, with the touchpads being a little finicky to respond.

The standard controller across Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
The standard controller across Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

We also found the motion tracking to be somewhat flawed in our tests, with the controllers tending to jump around — much more than the PSVR.

All of the mobile VR headsets ranked below the quartet of tethered headsets, with the Star Wars: Jedi Challenges doing the best with a score of 5 out of 10 and the Google Daydream View and the Samsung Gear VR performing the second-best in this metric, both earning a 4 out of 10.

The Star Wars headset relies on an external sensor orb, allowing you to move throughout the room — something the other mobile headsets lack. You use the lightsaber as a controller and it seems relatively responsive, though the motion tracking can get a bit laggy in the most intense lightsaber fights.

A Padawan focused on his training.
A Padawan focused on his training.

When it came to interacting with the headset, we found the Gear VR to have a slight edge over the Daydream View. Both of these mobile headsets have handheld remotes, but the Gear VR also has a directional touchpad and both home and back buttons on the headset itself.

The Samsung Gear is equipped with a built in track pad  home and back button.
The Samsung Gear is equipped with a built in track pad, home and back button.

The Daydream View only has a handheld remote for control, but it does have a handy storage compartment inside the headset for the remote when you are not using it. Both of these headsets are limited to 3-DOF, meaning you can look all around you, but are intended for you to be sitting down or standing in a stationary position.

Both of these mobile headsets did an acceptable job at tracking the position of the handheld remote, though you did need to reset the controller center direction occasionally to align with the direction you are actually facing, as they both would tend to drift a tiny bit the longer you used the headset. This is an extremely quick process, done by simply holding down a button until the direction re-centered.

The Daydream remote also fits nicely inside of its headset.
The Daydream remote also fits nicely inside of its headset.

The bulk of the mobile headsets came next, with the Canbor VR, Google Cardboard, Merge VR, and the QERY VRGO all earning a 2 out of 10 for their relatively subpar performance in this metric.

The Canbor does have a handheld remote, but we found it to be significantly inferior to that of the Gear VR or Daydream View. It also had exceptionally limited functionality when paired with an iOS phone and generally felt slow and unresponsive.

The only cheaper model with a remote.
The only cheaper model with a remote.

Neither the Cardboard, Merge, or the VRGO have a handheld remote, instead of having one or two buttons on the top of the device that will interact with the touchscreen on your phone when pressed.

There are no straps for the Cardboard  so you have to hold it up.
There are no straps for the Cardboard, so you have to hold it up.

All of these headsets were the same in terms of sensor coverage, all being 3-DOF headsets that allowed you to look around in every direction, but not move around. The head tracking seemed fine on all of these, but none of these headsets tracked the position of the controller. Three headsets lacked a handheld controller entirely, while the VRGO doesn't monitor the position of the remote, only reading the motion of the joystick on it.

Finishing out the back of the pack, the Bnext VR earned a 1 out of 10 for its overall abysmal performance when it came to Interactiveness. There aren't any buttons on the handset or a handheld controller. It allows you to look around from a stationary position, but doesn't track any other motion.

The PlayStation camera has some trouble tracking if it is too dark in the room.
The PlayStation camera has some trouble tracking if it is too dark in the room.

Visual Immersiveness


Ranking behind Interactiveness in terms of significance, our Visual Immersiveness metric merited 20% of the total score. We compared how well each headset blocked out ambient light, the field of view, the sharpness of the image, as well as the overall viewing quality. The chart below shows which headsets provided the most visually striking and immersive experience and which ones were a little on the blurry side


All of the tethered headsets, as well as the Samsung Gear VR, tied for the top spot in this metric, earning a 9 out of 10 for their exceptional performance. This mobile headset held its own against the significantly more expensive tethered models, even exceeding their performance when it came to blocking out ambient light. The Gear VR completely blocked the all of the light from the room from entering the headset for the majority of our testers. The HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and the PlayStation VR all blocked the majority of the light, but all three suffered from a slight light leak around the bridge of the nose. It would let in a little light, but not enough to be distracting.

The head straps on the Vive can leave you with some interesting hat hair.
The head straps on the Vive can leave you with some interesting hat hair.

However, we found that the Oculus and the PlayStation VR to be the top headsets when we evaluated the resolution and sharpness. The Oculus and the HTC Vive both have a resolution of 1080x1200 per eye, but the text just didn't see as sharp and crisp on the HTC. The PlayStation VR has a reduced resolution of 960x1080 per eye, but we couldn't detect any noticeable decrease in sharpness when comparing it to the Oculus Rift.

The HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift did have the largest field of view out of any of the headsets that we tested, measuring in at 110°. Next, the Canbor VR and the Gear VR had the next largest field of view, with just over 100°. The chart below shows how the rest of the models ranked in terms of field of view.


The three tethered headset all have exceptional viewing quality overall, with the Gear VR just the tiniest bit behind them.

After this quartet of top performers, the Google Daydream View came next, earning an 8 out of 10 for its performance in this set of tests. We didn't find there to be a ton of light leaking in around the Daydream, but there still is a noticeable amount — more than the Gear VR or the tethered trio of headsets. The resolution of the display depends on what mobile phone is used, but we found the viewing quality to be fantastic when using a Google Pixel XL phone. The field of view did seem to be somewhat reduced with this headset, with more of our test image being cut off.

A screen shot used in field of view testing.
A screen shot used in field of view testing.

Following the Daydream, the Google Cardboard and the Acer AH101 came next, both earning a 6 out of 10 for its above-average showing in our Visual Immersiveness metric. The Cardboard lets in significantly more light than the Daydream — understandable, since this headset is made from rigid cardboard, rather than a more form-fitting, softer material. The field of view is about the same as the Daydream, with similar sharpness and viewing quality when using the Pixel XL.

The Acer was well padded and comfortable even for long sessions.
The Acer was well padded and comfortable even for long sessions.

The Acer has one of the highest resolutions out of any model that we tested at 1440 x 1440 per eye, but text still appears a little out of focus when it is near the periphery of the field of view. The field of view on this product is also a little narrower than the top headset, but the overall viewing quality is above average. The Acer also blocks most ambient light from entering the viewing area.

Next, the Lenovo Star Wars, Bnext, Merge VR, and the QERY VRGO all earned a 5 out of 10 for their somewhat mediocre performance when it came to being visually immersive.

The Star Wars headset is AR, so it purposefully lets in the ambient light to superimpose the content over your physical environment. The resolution depends on the phone, like the other mobile headsets, but we did find the narrow field of view to be a bit crippling, especially in the faster-paced lightsaber battles.

The Bnext and the QERY both let an abundance of light in, while the Merge actually did a fantastic job at blocking light, only rivaled by the Samsung Gear VR. The Bnext had the widest field of view out of this group of three, followed by the Merge and then the QERY.

The Merge had alright viewing quality, with the image being slightly zoomed in and the text shown always exhibiting some slight distortion. The QERY and the Bnext were worse, showing even more distortion.

Rounding out the back of the pack, the Canbor earned a 2 out of 10 for its relatively poor performance. This headset lets in about the same amount of light as the QERY, but is very hard to adjust to see clearly, showing tons of distortion in text and usually causing a decent amount of eye strain when trying to focus on an aspect of the image. The Canbor does have a decently wide field of view, but it's hard to overcome its abysmal viewing quality.

The Samsung Gear is comfortable enough to sleep in.
The Samsung Gear is comfortable enough to sleep in.

Comfort


Ranking next in our review, our Comfort rating metric accounts for 20% of the total score. While all of the headsets will feel slightly awkward and foreign at first, this feeling dissipates rapidly with the more comfortable headsets, while other models just never really felt that comfortable. They would be fine for a short experience or two, but would severely detract from the virtual reality if worn for long periods of time. To determine scores for this metric, we compared how each headset felt on your face, whether or not it made your face sweaty, and if there was sufficient room to wear glass. The chart below shows how each model stacked up.


Earning the top score out of all of the headsets that we tested, the Samsung Gear VR is by far the most comfortable out of the entire group. The Gear VR is quite comfortable to wear — even for long periods of time, with a cushion that prevents any pressure points on your face. It also had more than enough room to wear over a pair of glasses and an adequate amount of ventilation to keep the optics from fogging up.

First time experiencing VR.
First time experiencing VR.

Following the Gear VR, the HTC Vive is next, meriting a 7 out of 10 when it comes to comfort. This headset conforms to your face well, but not quite as nice as the Gear VR. It has about the same amount of ventilation as the Samsung Gear VR, but it has substantially less room to fit glasses into. You can wear glasses with this headset, but just barely.

Next, the Google Daydream View, the Merge VR, Acer AH101, and the PlayStation VR all earned a 6 out of 10 in our comfort test. The Merge VR, Acer, and the PlayStation VR felt more comfortable to wear, with the Merge VR constructed entirely of a squishy foam material, while the Acer and PlayStation VR has a form-fitting cushion that makes it comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

The Acer had the narrowest field of view out of all the tethered headsets.
The Acer had the narrowest field of view out of all the tethered headsets.

The Google Daydream View is a little less pleasant to wear, but both it and the PlayStation VR have sufficient room for glasses to be worn. The Merge and Acer are quite cramped when worn with glasses, especially those with larger frames.
The Merge proving that VR is not a fashion statement.
The Merge proving that VR is not a fashion statement.

The Bnext, Oculus Rift, and the QERY VRGO all were about average in terms of comfort. The Oculus is slightly above average in terms of comfort, about on par with the Daydream View. The Bnext and the VRGO are mediocre in terms of comfort. The QERY has plenty of room for glasses, the Bnext is very snug, and the Oculus is exceptionally tight when wearing glasses. The Bnext and the Oculus are about average in terms of breathability, while the QERY is constructed of the least breathable material, meaning that you face can get decently sweaty when worn for longer periods of time.

Next, the Google Cardboard and Star Wars: Jedi Challenges both earned a 4 out of 10, while the Canbor again rounded out the bottom of the pack with a 3 out of 10. The Google Cardboard is by far the least comfortable out of all the headsets to wear on your face, but has plenty of room for glasses and more than enough ventilation to keep the lenses from fogging up.

The Cardboard is equipped with a button to interact with menus on-screen.
The Cardboard is equipped with a button to interact with menus on-screen.


The Star Wars headset isn't terribly comfortable, feeling quite awkward and unbalanced to wear. It also doesn't have a ton of ventilation or space for spectacles.

The Jedi Challenges headset is very front heavy and more uncomfortable for those with a smaller face.
The Jedi Challenges headset is very front heavy and more uncomfortable for those with a smaller face.

The Canbor is only a little more comfortable to wear than the Cardboard, but has absolutely no room whatsoever for glasses and only has mediocre breathability.

The Rift can be a little tight getting on  especially if you wear glasses.
The Rift can be a little tight getting on, especially if you wear glasses.

User Friendliness


Accounting for 15% of the total score, this metric evaluates and assesses the overall experience for the user while using the headset. We compared the audio system of each headset, whether it was built-in or if you are meant to connect external headphones, how much work it took to get the headset ready to use, whether or not you were prone to hitting buttons inadvertently, and for the mobile VR platforms, whether or not you need to remove the case from your phone before use. The following chart shows how each headset scored when it came to our User Friendliness metric.


Taking home the top score out of the entire group, the Oculus Rift and the Acer tied for the top score of 9 out of 10 in this metric. The Oculus has integrated headphones built in, circumventing the need to attach an external pair. This model is also exceptionally easy to use once the initial setup has been completed, only requiring you to don the headset in view of the sensors.

It is easy to turn down the volume on the Rift  just move the integrated speakers away from your ears.
It is easy to turn down the volume on the Rift, just move the integrated speakers away from your ears.

This model also doesn't have any buttons on the headset itself, making it impossible to hit one inadvertently.

The Acer only takes a tiny bit more work than the Oculus to set up each time, requiring you to attach a set of headphones.

Ranking behind the Oculus and the Acer, the HTC Vive and the PlayStation VR both merited an 8 out of 10 for their performance. Both of these headsets have an audio port to plug in external headphones if you want the full VR experience, but both will play sound through the computer or TV speakers if headphones are not connected. However, we did find that the earbuds are more likely to be pulled out accidentally when using the Vive compared to the PlayStation VR.

The PSVR utilizes earbuds like the Vive  but they didn't give us as much trouble.
The PSVR utilizes earbuds like the Vive, but they didn't give us as much trouble.

Similar to the Oculus, both of these headsets are ready to go as soon as you put them on in view of the sensors, once the initial installation has been completed. The models both lack buttons on the headset as well, meaning there is no chance of accidentally pressing one.

Next, after the trio of top scoring tethered headsets, the Google Cardboard, Google Daydream View, and the Merge VR all earned a 7 out of 10 for their user-friendliness. It is extremely easy to access the audio connector to plug in headphones when using the Cardboard or Daydream, with it only being slightly more work when using the Merge. However, it is a little easier to install your phone in the Merge VR than the pair of Google headsets, only requiring you to slide your phone in from the top rather than folding out the front cover.

You can adjust the lens width on either side of the Merge  and use it as a button to interact with the display.
You can adjust the lens width on either side of the Merge, and use it as a button to interact with the display.

We didn't experience any issues with a button on the phone being pressed accidentally during our testing process, but it would appear that this is much more likely with the Daydream due to the strap covering the volume buttons on the Pixel phone, than the Cardboard or the Merge.

The Daydream does give you the most flexibility for using your phone while it is still in its case, with the Cardboard being a little tighter than the Daydream and the Merge being even tighter.

The Samsung Gear VR and Star Wars: Jedi Challenges finished next in this metric, meriting a 6 out of 10 for their showing. It is exceptionally easy to plug in headphones, but it is a little more work to set up the Gear VR each time. Instead of simply sliding your smartphone in, there are a pair of clamps that hold the phone in and a USB-C connector that you need to attach before you can use the VR system.

You are required to plug your Samsung phone into the USB-C connector to use the Gear VR.
You are required to plug your Samsung phone into the USB-C connector to use the Gear VR.

There isn't really an opportunity to inadvertently hit buttons on the phone the way it is supported, but there are a very limited number of phone cases that would work with this headset, meaning that you most likely need to remove the case from your phone before using the Gear VR.

The Star Wars headset requires to plug your phone in with one of the included cables and mounts in a plastic holder to install. However, you usually didn't have to remove your case, earning this product a few extra points.

Next, the QERY VRGO earned a 5 out of 10 for its somewhat mediocre performance in this group of tests. It is very easy to plug a set of earbuds into your phone when it is installed in this headset, but it is a bit of a pain to actually install your phone in the VRGO. The cover folds out to insert the phone, but it takes a little bit of fiddling to get your phone centered properly. If the phone isn't centered perfectly, there is no amount of focal adjustment to make the image visible.

The QERY does have a ledge for your phone  but if your phone is slim you will need to scoot it up. Possibly resulting in some very unpleasant  out of focus screen if you don't get it straight.
The QERY does have a ledge for your phone, but if your phone is slim you will need to scoot it up. Possibly resulting in some very unpleasant, out of focus screen if you don't get it straight.

There is a ledge on the bottom to help align your phone, but it is too far down to be any good for our test phone — a Samsung Galaxy S8. This headset will only work with phones in very slim cases, but it is relatively unlikely to accidentally press a button.

Rounding out the back of the group, the Canbor VR and the Bnext VR performed relatively poorly, earning a 3 and a 2 out of 10 for their efforts, respectively. It's not too much effort to get headphones plugged in when using the Canbor VR, but it is a solid hassle to get them hooked up when using the Bnext. It isn't great to get the Canbor set up for use. The cover folds out with clamps to hold the phone in place, but it can very easily push buttons accidentally depending on the phone. However, it is far superior to the Bnext. This headset has a holder that slides out, which then clamps in. This also makes it almost impossible to not accidentally hit buttons.

Your headphone jack might not play nice with the Bnext.
Your headphone jack might not play nice with the Bnext.

However, you usually don't have to take the case off of your phone to use these headsets. We tested with a larger, rugged case and it worked fine.

The Vive and its components. The sensors can be a pain to mount if you don't want to drill into your wall or have 2 tall tripods available.
The Vive and its components. The sensors can be a pain to mount if you don't want to drill into your wall or have 2 tall tripods available.

Ease of Setup


Finishing out our review, we compared the difficulty of the initial setup for each VR system. This metric accounts for the residual 10% of the overall score and is based on how much effort it took to set up the hardware for each system and install the software, as well as what the hardware requirements are to properly run each headset. The chart below shows which headsets are a snap to set up for the first time, and which headsets are a total hassle.


A handful of the headsets in the review tied for the top score, with the Bnext, Canbor, Google Cardboard, Merge VR, and the QERY VRGO all earning a 9 out of 10 for their supremely easy initial setup.

In terms of hardware setup, the Google Cardboard, Bnext, and the Merge are essentially ready to go right out of the box. You need to adjust the lenses on the Bnext and Merge and that is about it. The Cardboard has no lens adjustment, so it is ready to go as soon as you pull it out of the box. The Canbor only requires you to add batteries to the remote and adjust the lenses and it is all set, while you only need to attach the head strap to the QERY and it is ready to go.

The software setup on all five of these headsets is a breeze, only requiring you to download whichever VR apps you want from the appropriate app store. These five headsets are all compatible with an enormous range of smartphones, so most current phones should work without issue.

The Acer, Jedi Challenges, Google Daydream and the Samsung Gear VR ranked next, all earning an 8 out of 10 for their performance. The Daydream is ready to go right out of the box, while the Gear VR took a little more work, requiring you to put batteries in the remote and attach the head and remote strap. The software install for both of these headsets is a little more time-consuming, with the Gear VR leading you through a series of prompts to download a handful of apps. It wasn't hard, but it did take a little bit of time. The Daydream app gave us a little grief and kept crashing when we tried to enter a payment method and enable things, but eventually, it worked for us.

This pair of headsets do have somewhat limited compatibility, with the Gear VR only working with a handful of Samsung phones and the Daydream is limited to a small pool of Daydream compatible phones — pretty much the flagship phone models of a few manufacturers. You can see a full list on their website and they are adding new phones all the time, but if you haven't bought a top of the line smartphone relatively recently, you are most likely out of luck.

An error you will encounter if your phone is not compatible with the Daydream.
An error you will encounter if your phone is not compatible with the Daydream.

The Acer and the Jedi Challenges headset also only take minimal effort in terms of hardware setup. You only need to plug the Acer into the HDMI and USB ports on your computer to get it ready to go and install the batteries in the Star Wars headsets to get this pair ready to go. The software setup on the Star Wars is the same as the other mobile apps, only requiring a simple app install. The Acer is one of the easiest tethered models to get the software configured, with helpful prompts guiding you through the process.

Moving on to the remainder of the tethered headsets, the PlayStation VR is the easiest of the three to set up for the first time, earning a 7 out of 10. This model only took about 10 minutes to set up, requiring us to make sure the PlayStation camera was pointed in the correct direction and plug a handful of cable in. This model prompts you through the setup process and offers a quick tutorial on how to use it. This model does have limited compatibility, only working with a PS4 and a PlayStation Camera, while the PS Move controllers are necessary for some games.

The Oculus is the next easiest to set up, earning a 5 out of 10. It took about 45 minutes for us to get it set up. The packaging directs you to the Oculus site to download the setup and provides a handful of directions to walk you through the process. We did struggle a little to get the sensors in the right position, as it is very particular about the placement of them. It took a bit longer than the PSVR to get all of the software installed and create an Oculus account, but it wasn't necessarily harder.

The Rift and its components. The extra sensors take up valuable USB ports and all of the cords clutter up the area  but we feel that the 3rd sensor is a must.
The Rift and its components. The extra sensors take up valuable USB ports and all of the cords clutter up the area, but we feel that the 3rd sensor is a must.

Both the Oculus and the HTC require a similar, high-end gaming computer to run properly, but the Oculus benefits greatly from the addition of a third sensor.

The HTC Vive is by far the most difficult to set up of all the headsets we tested. The sensors need to be mounted on the wall or on top of two tripods. We also had to adjust significantly more settings than either the Oculus or the PlayStation VR. All in all, this was a much more intensive setup process than the others and would probably be quite a struggle for users who aren't terribly tech-savvy.

The top headsets on the market  ready for some literal head-to-head testing.
The top headsets on the market, ready for some literal head-to-head testing.

Conclusion


Hopefully, this has been a helpful look at the top VR headsets available on the market today. While VR is an emerging technology, there are plenty of lower cost value options that would make a good introduction, or you can fully commit to a high-end tethered system for the maximum VR experience. For more information on the full details of our testing plan, take a look at our How We Test article for a full breakdown of our exact procedures and methodologies.
David Wise and Austin Palmer

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